22 February 2017


ScopeAround Flexible Digital Endoscope Camera

An extension for your eye

We own a four bedroom house on a mountain in Saratoga, California. I built our house 20 years ago, it is still a very beautiful house. However, year after year the house needs quite a bit of maintenance work.

Since we live so high on the mountain, we use water from our well. Before I got the ScopeAround, I had to drop a rope into the well, and if the rope came up wet, I would know we had water and wouldn’t need the water truck to come up.

After I got a ScopeAround, I can now just drop the cable into the well. I’m able to see if the well has water, and see if the water is clean or if there is any moss on the wall.

My son is a car racer, and he borrowed my ScopeAround to check for an oil leak on his car. Before, he had to use a stick attached to a tiny mirror.


02/22/17 -- Henry Zhang

21 February 2017


Simple Green Concentrated All-Purpose Cleaner

Non-toxic, bio-degradable formula for all-purpose cleaning

I bought a gallon of Simple Green about 3 or 4 years ago at Home Depot for about $10. It works great as a cleaner and degreaser. We use it to clean every room in the house. It has a nice pleasant kind of neutral smell. (You go into some people’s houses, and the smell of their heavily fragranced cleaners is kind of overwhelming.)

It is non-toxic and biodegradable. So it is not only better for you and your family but also better for the environment when that soapy water ends up out in the environment. I am still using the original gallon I bought 3 or 4 years ago, and I am still using the sprayer bottle I bought back then. That is probably at least 30-40 bottles that I would have otherwise bought. Recycling such plastic waste helps, but not even buying it in the first place is the best thing to do.

It saves trips to the store to buy cleaner. I have not had to even think about buying an all-purpose cleaner for years. On the bottle, it tells you how to dilute the product. 1 to 30 for light cleaning, and 1 to 10 for heavier duty cleaning. The re-usable spray bottle I bought has volume markings on it, so it’s easy to get the ratio correct. Home Depot also sells an empty bottle that says Simple Green on it. That would negate the need to mark the generic bottle with indelible ink to show what it contains. It is widely available at Home Depot, Lowe’s, and other larger stores. Also your local hardware store probably carries it.

02/21/17 -- Justin Lamar

20 February 2017


High Temperature Glue Gun

For better bonding to metal, wood, plastic, ceramics, magnets, and other non porous materials

I am in my second year of using the Surebonder high-temperature hot glue gun. As a crafty type, I have used a hot glue gun most of my life, but as a maker, I always opted for epoxy or other stronger, less convenient adhesive options.

There are many high-temp hot glue guns, but I like the Surebonder because it has an attached stand. You can put it down and brush away the glue webs, and hold the piece with both hands. For some reason, it rarely dribbles, unlike most other hot glue guns I have owned. Now I can put two irregular shapes together, tacking first then filleting.

For dirty or rusty pieces that you don’t want to clean (you might like the look of that metal urn, for example, and don’t want a shiny spot), I have found that gluing a tongue depressor or the like down first, then peeling it away, cleans just the glue area and lets you get good adhesion.

The only “drawback” is that it takes longer to harden. But the bond is so much stronger it’s worth blowing a few extra breaths onto the glob to get it to set.

02/20/17 -- Andrew McElfresh

19 February 2017


FFF Tour/OverDrive/Exploratorium

Recomendo: issue no. 30

If the Found Footage Festival tour ever comes your way, I highly recommend you check it out. The two guys who host the events scour thrift stores and yard sales for the most obscure and awkward infomercials, public access shows, training tapes and home videos to showcase. I’ve been to four of their shows and I always laugh so hard it hurts. They currently have 8 volumes available on DVD. You can watch videos of some of their findings on the website. — CD

The US is basically the only country in the world not using metric. It’s not that hard to learn a rough sense of how many kilometers in a mile, or pounds in a kilo. But it is very hard to convert temperatures between Centigrade and Fahrenheit. The solution is to convert all your thermometers to Centigrade: on your phone, in or outside of your house, on websites. Have any digital device display only Celsius, so you can’t cheat. In about a year, you’ll have a reliable and native sense of what’s cool and warm in degrees C. This is supremely handy if you travel anywhere outside of the US. — KK

I feel like an idiot for not discovering OverDrive sooner. It’s a free mobile app that lets you check out ebooks, audiobooks, and videos from your local public library. To use it, you need a a library card from your town or county. I got an Los Angeles Library e-card by signing up online and a couple of minutes later I was reading A Burglar’s Guide to the City. — MF

Since I live in the San Francisco metro area, I get a lot of out-of-town visitors. My favorite place to take them is the Exploratorium along the bayside waterfront. It is the original hands-on science museum, and still the world’s best hands-on learning experience. Many of the interactive exhibits now common at science museums around the world began here; the Exploratorium has all of them and many more found nowhere else. This sprawling temple of innovation and maker-goodness can easily occupy me — even after my 50th visit — for four hours or more. (I normally get saturated after only one hour in other museums.) Of course while it is perfect for kids of all ages, every Thursday evening it’s reserved for adults, and crowded with innovators and artists of all types. — KK

I spent the last year buying and returning boots in search of a pair that come close to Lucky Brand Basel boots in comfort and style. I’ve gone through two pairs of them in black in the last 5 years and I finally gave up searching and bought an additional pair in brown. I love these because they’re stylish enough to solicit compliments, and they’re so comfortable that I can literally walk miles in them every day. — CD

Would you like to improve your chance of having an empty middle seat when you fly on Southwest? Here’s a trick I’ve started to use that works. When I board, I look for a 3-seat row of chairs where a very large person is sitting in the window or aisle set. I will sit in that row, either in the aisle seat or window seat. As the plane starts to get full, passengers will be reluctant to sit in the middle seat because the big person is encroaching on the space. One time when I did this, the guy sitting in the seat (he was probably 6’5” and weighed 300 pounds) leaned over and said conspiratorially, “No one will sit here. It’s always the last seat they take.“ — MF

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02/19/17 -- Kevin Kelly, Mark Frauenfelder, Claudia Dawson

18 February 2017


Ask Cool Tools Featured Question

Share your knowledge with your fellow Cool Tools readers

mamayama recently asked “What’s your favorite dental floss for closely spaced teeth?” and here were the replies.

02/18/17 --

17 February 2017


BuildTak Spatula

Remove objects from a 3D printer build surface

I love my BuildTak Spatula, I bought it from them at a 3D printing expo, and it was a great investment of twenty bucks. The spatula is designed to remove prints from a 3D printer build surface. I have a stable of 3D printers in my classroom, and the newest printer is big enough for me to lean inside of.

When 3D printing, prints get literally glued to the glass printer bed, and sometimes it’s a struggle to get them up without damaging the print. Printers generally come with a standard issue putty knife for this. I’ve also used a screwdriver. They are not the right tool for the job. The angle is all wrong. You want to come in at the very bottom of the print, flat to the glass plate, a putty knife needs to be flexed strongly to get it in that position. The spatula on the other hand has a head that is at a right angle to the handle so it easily slides along the plate; this means that the you don’t have to flex the blade. The large flat blade makes it less likely to damage a print, and allows for easier use on large prints. The handle is nice and comfortable and allows for quite a bit of force to be applied.

I also use the spatula for cleaning the glue off the bed. I wet the surface and can glide the blade along the bed picking up the left over glue.

02/17/17 -- Andrew Woodbridge


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Six-Ounce Pyrex Custard Cups

Glass cups safe in freezer and microwave

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What’s in My Bag? — Marcel Dufresne

A couple’s gadget bag for traveling

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Boat Hook

Telescoping pole extends from 4 ft. to 8 ft.

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Anti-Steam Ove Gloves

Triple layer heat, flame & steam protection

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Bluetooth Receiver Streambot

Bluetooth adapter plugs into any powered sound system or earbuds

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What's in My Bag? 15 February 2017

Announcements: 09/6/16


CargoRAXX – unrecommended

This appears to be a shill review. Many thanks to Cool Tools reader Matthew Connor for looking into this. He wrote:

Meaghan Hollywood works for CargoRAXX. Meaghan Hollywood put a review up quasi-anonymously on Amazon. A similarly worded review is now anonymously on KK.org.

On Amazon there are two reviews for the product (https://www.amazon.com/CargoRAXX-S1A-Interior-Management-System/dp/B01A6X4MBS). Neither is attributed by name but the one from January 18th, 2016 refers to “my Tahoe” and read similar to the KK.org review. Let us suppose the author is, in fact, the same person.

Clicking on the name for the review – merely “Amazon Customer” brings up their profile (https://www.amazon.com/gp/pdp/profile/A1CF94IIWSAE00/ref=cm_cr_dp_pdp). This profile contains one Wish List on the left side. Clicking on it revels – the name of “Amazon Customer” – it is Meaghan Hollywood.

Ok. I believe at this point the author of the KK review and the author of at least one of the two reviews on Amazon are in fact the same person and that person’s name is Meaghan Hollywood.

Here’s the kicker, CargoRAXX has a website with a blog feature – their blogger’s name is Meaghan Hollywood. (http://cargoraxx.com/5-reasons-re-organize-suv/)

About Cool Tools

Cool Tools is a web site which recommends the best/cheapest tools available. Tools are defined broadly as anything that can be useful. This includes hand tools, machines, books, software, gadgets, websites, maps, and even ideas. All reviews are positive raves written by real users. We don’t bother with negative reviews because our intent is to only offer the best.

One new tool is posted each weekday. Cool Tools does NOT sell anything. The site provides prices and convenient sources for readers to purchase items.

When Amazon.com is listed as a source (which it often is because of its prices and convenience) Cool Tools receives a fractional fee from Amazon if items are purchased at Amazon on that visit. Cool Tools also earns revenue from Google ads, although we have no foreknowledge nor much control of which ads will appear.

We recently posted a short history of Cool Tools which included current stats as of April 2008. This explains both the genesis of this site, and the tools we use to operate it.

13632766_602152159944472_101382480_oKevin Kelly started Cool Tools in 2000 as an email list, then as a blog since 2003. He edited all reviews through 2006. He writes the occasional review, oversees the design and editorial direction of this site, and made a book version of Cool Tools. If you have a question about the website in general his email is kk {at} kk.org.

13918651_603790483113973_1799207977_oMark Frauenfelder edits Cool Tools and develops editorial projects for Cool Tools Lab, LLC. If you’d like to submit a review, email him at editor {at} cool-tools.org (or use the Submit a Tool form).

13898183_602421513250870_1391167760_oClaudia Dawson runs the Cool Tool website, posting items daily, maintaining software, measuring analytics, managing ads, and in general keeping the site alive. If you have a concern about the operation or status of this site contact her email is cl {at} kk.org.